Rod Smith: Democrats will stay out of Supreme Court merit retention fight

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Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said Wednesday that political parties should stay out of the fight over merit retention for Supreme Court Justice. “When tremendous stakes are involved the last thing you want is for a message to be sent to judges: ‘If you don’t rule for us, you’ll pay a price for it,'” Smith said. That puts the party in a different position from the Republican Party, which is backing the effort to oust Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince – the last three appointed by a Democratic governor. RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry says the push came from the party’s grassroots members.  Gov. Rick Scott, who would get to appoint the justices’ replacements if the trio is removed, hasn’t publicly taken a position.

Smith, who sometimes teaches at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, said the American judiciary’s independence is what sets the U.S. apart from other countries.  As a cautionary tale, he pointed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  “Probably the one thing that Americans remember him unfavorably – the only thing, in many instances, they remember unfavorably – is when he got frustrated with the [U.S. Supreme] Court and tried to pack the court,” he said.  “Why?  There was something offensive about the idea of packing the court.  It doesn’t sit right with people who believe in the judicial system in this country.”  The wealthy Republican donors the Koch brothers and the group Restore Justice 2012 have joined the RPOF in working to remove the justices.  All three were retained by voters in 2000 and 2006.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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